Meet Jane Doe

OC's most famous sexual-assault victim breaks her silence on the 10th anniversary of the Haidl gang rape

"I did that?" Doe asks me, smiling.

(Well, you had some pivotal help from Haidl, Nachreiner and Spann.)

It's true the elder Haidl, Jaramillo and Carona were not present during the gang rape, but their ham-fisted efforts to wreck the prosecution not only backfired, but also undermined their once-impenetrable alliance. The tensions of the case exposed deep personality conflicts, and those rifts ultimately provided details about non-Doe scandals and crimes, information that fueled my newspaper columns and the investigatory files for suspicious IRS and FBI agents.

Jaramillo and Carona: Felons, Adulterers, pals
Jaramillo and Carona: Felons, Adulterers, pals
The scene of the crime
John Gilhooley
The scene of the crime

The impact of the Carona-Jaramillo-Haidl breakup can't be underestimated. In 2002, for example, CNN's Larry King named Carona "America's Sheriff" following the kidnapping, rape and murder of a 5-year-old Stanton girl. There was political-insider talk of converting the self-styled "Christian conservative" sheriff's overwhelmingly positive public image into a Republican campaign to unseat U.S. Senator Barbara Boxer or serve as Arnold Schwarzenegger's lieutenant governor. President George W. Bush placed him in a top homeland-security advisory post.

Before the sexual assault, Jaramillo—a onetime Garden Grove cop—made no secret of wanting to be elected sheriff on his way to becoming California's first Latino governor. Haidl, the least personable and, obviously, wealthiest of the trio, was content to bankroll his buddies' rise in power. He just wanted their influence for personal favors—say, if a criminal matter arose or an investment tip was needed.

But, thanks to the gangbang rape of Doe, all their dreams crashed. Carona is now a 66-month resident of a federal prison in Colorado following a corruption conviction. Jaramillo is out of custody, but only after serving both state and federal prison stints that would have been longer if he hadn't ratted out Carona. Haidl, who was caught writing off his son's legal defense as a fraudulent tax deduction, made out the best; after agreeing to surreptitiously wear a government body wire to record Carona discussing coverup efforts, he avoided prison and today enjoys mansion life in Las Vegas and Newport Coast.

* * *

Your typical rape victim endures enormous pain, but what Doe experienced was unforgivable. In addition to the intimidation campaign and the embarrassing national exposure, she had to sit for hours in the witness chair while Haidl's defense lawyers called her names and played (and replayed) on courtroom monitors a video of her vaginal and anal exam after the crime. Private investigators parked in front of her house and tailed her parents to work. According to law-enforcement sources, Haidl's emissaries offered secret deals to buy her silence.

"There was intimidation," she says. "I think they were hoping I wouldn't testify or that maybe I would settle out of court before it went to trial. No. That's not what I was going to do. I felt like they deserved to pay for what they did, and I felt that prison was the only true way to pay."

Doe even felt afraid for her life. One night between the first hung-jury trial in 2004 and the second successful one in 2006, a female neighbor who looks like Doe was ambushed and severely beaten in the face and head with a rock. The assault abruptly ended, and the mysterious man fled after the victim yelled, "I'm not [Doe's first name]!"

"My neighbor is sure that I was the intended victim that night," Doe tells me while seated on a sofa inside the residence of DA chief of staff Susan Kang Schroeder, which, ironically, is just 900 feet from the 2002 crime scene at 1 Jade Cove, Haidl's former home. "She thinks that if I had been the one attacked, the guy wouldn't have stopped until I was dead."

Though she escaped the madman, Doe admits she contributed to her post-rape collapse.

"I never knew what meth was before the assault," she says. "After the assault, I wanted to escape. I didn't know who I was anymore. My innocence was gone. It was completely taken away from me. In one night, I had lost everything I knew. I was shunned and scorned. People treated me like I was the perpetrator. I wanted to numb myself. I didn't want to feel the pain anymore. Unfortunately, I found meth."

For three years, while the case languished in court proceedings, Doe let the meth take control. "I got really bad," she says. "It was killing me. It took me to places that I would have never gone."

The lowest point was June 28, 2004, the day her parents informed her the first jury had deadlocked in Superior Court Judge Francisco Briseño's Santa Ana courtroom. (See my column titled "Justice Takes a Pool Cue," July 8, 2004.)

"At that point, I felt like it was over, and [the defendants] had won, and they were going to get away with it even though there was a videotape of what they did," she says. "I thought there was no hope. I just couldn't grasp the idea that they could have gotten a hung jury. But that's okay because we had a second trial, and they lost. I got justice, which is all that matters."

* * *

The law in California is unequivocal: A person can't have sexual relations with another person who is incapable of giving consent. That means, for example, that a man is guilty of sexual assault if he takes a woman home from a bar where they'd been drinking heavily, they smooch, he watches her pass out, and then initiates sex acts.

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